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Updated Up To 18/01/2017
Volume 3, Number 1 (January 2005) : 43-56
Early Ramifications of Theatrical Iconoclasm
The Conversion of Catholic Biblical Plays into Protestant Drama
Dalia Ben-Tsur
Rubric A: Literature and Ideology



This paper suggests that English Biblical plays produced during the1550s played a part in the controversies set in motion by the newly emergent culture of iconoclasm. As the iconoclastic culture gained ascendancy, playwrights were forced to employ all of their inventiveness not only to entertain audiences but to find methods of retaining Biblical images on the English stage. In their reluctance to yield to iconoclastic pressures, dramatists used a series of complex strategies to legitimize the representation of residual Catholic spectacle on stage.

      Through an analysis of two contemporary Biblical plays -- Lewis Wagerís The Life and Repentaunce of Mary Magdalene (1550?) and the anonymous play Jacob and Esau (1558) the paper shows how playwrights negotiated the legitimacy of Biblical drama despite the constraints of a culture increasingly informed by iconoclastic tendencies -- how they seem to heed to the pressures of reformation while at the same time continuing to use traditionally Catholic Biblical imagery and overcoming -- if only temporarily -- the increasing opposition towards such imagery.

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